Assistant apps are applications or programmes which can provide access to information.

They are obtained from the online store specific to your device (for Apple devices this is App Store or for Android it is Google Play).

Assistant apps use augmented reality (AR) to provide a huge variety of services, including GPS navigation, reading printed text, detection of colours and light, recognition of bank notes, images, scenery and faces. Although this is achieved by using the camera on the device, no sight is required to operate the app as spoken feedback is available. 

Setup:

Assistant apps like KNFB Reader, Be My Eyes, Seeing AI, Tap Tap See, Giraffe Reader, Blind Square, iDentifi and Soundscape amongst others are widely available on the iOS platform which means that they will work on Apple products like the iPhone and iPad. Some of these apps are also available on Android devices and are expected to become more and more available in due course.

To start using any app it needs to be obtained from the relevant store which means it is installed on to the device. An apple ID or a Google ID is required along with a password in order for this to happen.

Some assistant apps are available free of charge, some offer a subscription based service and some can be acquired with a one off purchase.

When the download and installation is complete, an icon appears on the home screen of the device and the app can be launched from there.

Use:

Assistant apps are used to perform everyday tasks with an enhanced degree of independence. They can allow a sight impaired person read printed materials like letters, magazines and menus, to recognise currency, find out the colour of an item, to identify products using a bar code reader, find out what is around you and hear descriptions of what a scene looks like. The also help to make travelling to one place to another easier using GPS to provide directions, information on landmarks and roads. New assistant apps are being developed all the time and solutions are being created to make many tasks easier.

Verdict:

If you want to take control of your own communications, dressing, shopping, transactions and navigation then assistant apps are an easy and quick solution.

No sight is required to operate these apps as spoken feedback is provided to make them accessible. And there are also accessories available to help with different aspects like lining up the camera with the text on a page.

Further resources

Henshaws, another charity who support people with sight loss, have a very useful booklet available for download. It’s called "24 Apps for people with a visual impairment".